Gales bring deaths and travel chaos

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The Independent Online

Storm force winds wreaked havoc across parts of Britain today causing death on the roads, crippling transport services and leaving thousands without power.

Storm force winds wreaked havoc across parts of Britain today causing death on the roads, crippling transport services and leaving thousands without power.

One person in an HGV died when it was blown over in Glencoe and a man was killed when his articulated lorry toppled in the gales on the A1 near Catterick, North Yorkshire.

Another was feared dead when a lorry was blown down an embankment on the A1M in County Durham while in Tyne and Wear the driver of an HGV was killed when it rolled down an embankment between Seaton Burn and Gosforth Park.

Scotland was particularly badly hit with 100 mph winds closing bridges, causing numerous road accidents and bringing the rail network to a virtual standstill.

Winds of 120mph were recorded on the top of Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis in the Scottish Highlands.

Elsewhere Northern Ireland was battered by gales of 98mph and the north–east of England was also badly hit by the storms.

There was gridlock in Glasgow after access to the busy Kingston Bridge was closed in the city centre during the height of the storm and ScotRail was forced to cancel train services in and out of the city.

Tonight as the conditions began to ease a massive operation was under way to restore electricity and re–open the transport system.

However power companies said the high winds were slowing down their efforts amid safety fears for staff.

In northern Scotland more than 40,000 were without electricity, with many thousands more cut off in the central belt area.

On the railways north of the border all ScotRail services south of Inverness were suspended this afternoon until further notice due to flying debris and fallen trees.

A spokesman for the company said: "This decision is in the interests of safety and we will reassess the situation as it develops."

A train with about 120 people on board was struck by a falling tree in Perthshire, Scotland. The driver was slightly injured.

On the roads the situation also deteriorated throughout the day.

Police brought in speed restrictions at many main road bridges and some were closed in the gale force winds including the Erskine Bridge in Renfrewshire and the Forth Road Bridge.

Drivers were warned to reduce their speeds, drive with headlights on and to exercise extreme caution.

Many routes were littered with debris including fallen traffic lights and cars blocking routes.

The A66 trans–Pennine route and A689 road across the Newton Cap viaduct at Bishop Auckland, County Durham, were both closed to high–sided vehicles and caravans.

In Newcastle, the Redheugh Bridge was closed to all forms of transport after a vehicle was blown over.

Ferry services were also hit by the bad weather, with many services in the west of Scotland experiencing delays, diversions or cancellations.

All sailings between Stranraer and Belfast were cancelled by Stena Line.

The severe weather also brought the risk of flooding to some parts of Britain.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency issued 12 flood warnings, mainly at rivers in Perthshire, as well as Inverclyde and North Ayrshire.

It was also warning of higher than usual tide levels in coastal areas around the country over the next 18 hours.

Flooding in England was mainly contained to low–lying fields and roads.

River levels were falling in all regions however many tidal areas remained on alert as high tides and strong winds were forecasted to continue this week.

The Environment Agency had 23 flood warnings in force, affecting areas in Wales, the Midlands, Cumbria and Buckinghamshire.

The Environment Agency said the situation had eased from the weekend when it had imposed 41 warnings.